Willow County Water District, a water agency that serves outlying inland Mendocino County communities ranging from Calpella, Redwood Valley, and Hopland among others, announced last Friday afternoon a boil water notice for all Hopland customers. The notice advised all residents that due to “the emergency use of a standby water source with elevated total coliforms,” customers were advised to boil any tap water they use or exclusively drink and cook with bottled water.
We published the boil water notice on Saturday morning after a concerned Hopland community member forwarded us a link to where it had been posted on the Willow County Water District website. After publishing, it soon became clear through social media comments that many members of the Hopland community were concerned because they had not been formally notified of the potential contamination and some even reported gastrointestinal issues.
Jared Walker, the general manager of the Willow County Water District, provided us with an overview of what caused the emergency use of standby water, the factors that led to the boil water notice, and finally, the efforts of the water district made to contact Hopland customers.
Walker explained that on Friday Hopland’s main water supply well had “mechanical motor issues” requiring repair and immediate use of the standby source or “Hopland was going to run out of water.” The issuance of a boil water notice was a requirement as per the State Water Control Board due to the backup well having “elevated total coliforms.” Walker stated, “Since all samples have come back clean and absent of coliforms, the SWRCB issued this as a precautionary measure.”
Last Friday, November 5, 2020, the precautionary boil water notice went into effect at 3:30 p.m., Walker said. After emailing and calling the State Water Control Board, staff proceeded to post notices to the Willow County Water District office, at the Hopland Post Office, and on the water district website. Walker said staff then began to notify via phone community members including the directors of the water board, Hopland’s recently open school Shanél Valley Academy, Hopland businesses that supply water to the public including (restaurants, tap house, wineries, etc.). Water district staff began to make their way through the customer list. Due to the late hour that Friday afternoon and COVID-19 restrictions, Walker said he “felt it was best to continue phone calls in lieu of door-to-door communication.”
Walker said he considered contacting local newspapers so they could run the notice, but said “in the last two months and every one of them has taken at least five days to get published.” Being that he was actually in possession of a replacement motor for Hopland’s main source of water, Walker thought, “I knew it would be back in operation prior to that so we continued to work our way through the customer list via phone calls.”
Mendocino County District Engineer Zachary Rounds helped us understand the county government’s role in disseminating information like a boil water notice to county residents. He said, “Generally speaking, there’s not much that we do when the water district is regulated under the State Water program. It is the water district’s responsibility to contact each of its affected connections.”
Regarding reports of residents experiencing gastrointestinal issues, Walker emphasized that “all water in the distribution system has been treated and all water samples have come back clean and absent of any bacteria.” With the clean samples in mind, Walker finds it “difficult to believe that this water has created any gastrointestinal issues.”
Hopland Public Utility District’s sampling schedule is set by the State Water Control Board, explained Walker, and one raw sample is analyzed monthly from Hopland as well as “two biological samples in the distribution system.”
As to when Hopland residents can return to drinking their tap water, Walker said the boil water notice will be in place through Wednesday. Samples were taken yesterday and today from “our main source of water,” Walker said. The process requires two consecutive clean samples from the main well which Walker said he is confident will happen.
Note: MendoFever is based in Hopland and a customer of Willow County Water District